I anxiously pause and read, then pause and read again, carefully trying to parse the verbiage, analyze the tone, determine the intent, decipher the meaning, and find a way forward through this ever-expanding social media battlefield. I grow tired of this recurring, sinking, alienating feeling, my thumbs hovering over the phone, my eyes scanning and rescanning the inflamed words on the screen. Although I’m not looking for a fight, I face the familiar prospect that my next post, tweet, response, or lack of response will make someone angry.
Why are we so angry online? Why are we so divided? I can imagine the apostle Paul tweeting, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal 5:15). I can also imagine his words being disregarded or angerly refuted by most everyone. Why are we behaving in such a ridiculous manner with even the most mundane observations devolving into toxic absurdities? I can tweet the banal observation “I ate too many tacos,” and five responses later someone angrily accuses me of being a “baby killer.” If you don’t see a connection between baby killing and taco consumption, you’re correct. Unless you’re interacting with these words and ideas on the internet. On the internet, everything’s connected. This is the strange reality of our age; every idea becomes entangled through the emotionally chaotic, incessantly divisive world of social media. Our online existence is turning us into angry, dehumanizing, polarizing people.
Our response to a worldwide pandemic poignantly exemplified and exaggerated the most troubling aspects of our social media communication. While the world engaged in social distancing and at-home sheltering to stop the deadly spread of the coronavirus, the most divisive aspects of social media communication went viral. Angry partisan divisiveness and wild unfounded conspiracy theories spread rapidly through social media platforms. The World Health Organization (WHO) referred to this worldwide, massive spread of misinformation as an “Infodemic” where an overabundance of misinformation made “trustworthy sources” and “reliable guidance” hard to find when people most needed accurate information.1 In the early days of the spread of the coronavirus and the spread of related misinformation, the internet’s largest social media networks released an unprecedented joint statement declaring their intent to closely work together to combat “fraud and misinformation” and to elevate “authoritative content.”2 Although their statement dealt with misinformation, they could not address the general attitudes of anger and fear that infused into so many social media discussions.
One social media analytics tracking company found that disgust and fear were the most prominent emotions expressed by social media users during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.3 This disgust and fear exaggerated already volatile online environments as physically isolated people facing a collective traumatic experience increased their social media engagement on platforms that trended toward conflict in even the most peaceful of times. For many of us the dilemma was devastating. On one hand, we needed and craved community as the virus cut us off from many everyday human interactions. On the other hand, the online world we used to supplement our loss of in-person community became increasingly toxic, dehumanizing, and harmful to our emotional health.
Praise for Posting Peace
“Thoughtfully, authentically, and intelligently, Doug Bursch companions us through the fractured landscape of a technological society increasingly dependent on the ubiquitous presence of social media, and points us to hope in the true way: the very presence of Jesus in us and in the world as it is. This book is a challenging and joyful read, absolutely relevant to now!”
—Paul Young, author of The Shack and Lies We Believe About God
“We’ve become a culture divided by a common technology. How in the world do we learn to find common ground again? Dr. Bursch’s book Posting Peace is an absolute godsend and a must-read for any person seeking to exhibit the peacemaking ways of Jesus. I’ve always wondered, What if we took the Sermon on the Mount seriously in our digital environments? Finally, someone has shown us how. Bursch’s lucid analysis, laser-pointed research, and witty and whimsical writing not only teach us of digital peacemaking, they model it. Buy, read, and do this book. Rinse and repeat. Every year.”
—A. J. Swoboda, assistant professor of Bible and theology at Bushnell University and author of After Doubt
“Doug Bursch recognizes both the power of social media to shape us and the potential for us to shape our online engagement thoughtfully, deliberately, and well. In Posting Peace, he offers a vision for what social media can be as part of our God-given ministry of reconciliation―to be peacemakers in our face-to-face interactions and online. As he seeks to live this out, Doug invites readers to join him, and I gladly accept!”
–April Yamasaki, pastor and author of Four Gifts: Seeking Self-Care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
“Doug Bursch has written a wise and deeply Christian book on how to cut through all the foolishness and the many dangers of social media, and use internet platforms for better and higher purposes. He brings a good sense of humor, a kind heart, and a perceptive mind to the task and gives us, as a result, an astute manual of great guidance. It’s wonderful, tremendously needed, and highly recommended.”
—Tom Morris, author of Plato’s Lemonade Stand and The Oasis Within
“Posting Peace is so thoroughly researched, so engagingly written, and so practically applicable that I plan to read it again―and share it with others when I do. Doug Bursch has the right combination of expertise, humor, wisdom, and compassion to give this important subject the Christ-centered perspective we all need right now. Put down your smartphone and pick up this book. Then when you go back to your social media feeds (we know you will!), you’ll be better equipped to use them well instead of having them use you.”
—Karl Vaters, teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, author of 100 Days to a Healthier Church
About the Author
Douglas Bursch co-pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church in Auburn, Washington and is the host of The Fairly Spiritual Show podcast. He is married to his lifelong sweetheart, Jennifer. They enjoy raising their four children together and ministering as a team. Doug serves on the Doctrine Committee and Education Commission of The Foursquare Church and has taught theology courses as adjunct faculty for Life Pacific College and Life Ministry Institute. Doug received his Master of Divinity at The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at Portland Seminary of George Fox University. Doug produced and hosted over 1,200 Christian radio broadcasts.